Kahar Road <Forest District>

This dirt road winds its way through the ancestral lands of House Kahar, cresting hills and traversing verdant valleys as it passes through small clusters of villages that are allied under the flag of the Kahar wildcat.

To the north, surrounded by a fairly low curtain wall, rises the remarkable keep known as the Castle of Hours - a giant sundial with much of the amenities contained within the shadow-casting gnomon.

It is a temperate night. The slightest breeze stirs over the land infrequently. Puffy white clouds fill most of the sky. The sky is moonless, a portent of Shadow strength.

Lucius Nepos, Paelnor Harper, and Dradin are here. An oak sign is here.

The moonless sky, littered with the endless bodies of stars, showers Kahar Road with dim light. In this otherwise calm night, a single beacon

of activity can be seen in the distance: a pillar of smoke rising up in the air.

"Patrollin?" Harper exclaims, eyes widening. "Ol' Stiffneck would shit himself if he saw your type of patrolling. And I mean your /iron/," he

repeats, patting the cuirass on his chest. "Not that...whatever it is. Didn't you go to the quarter-hey, what's that?" The boy glances over

into the distance, frowning.

Lucius Nepos plucks a handful of berries from the sack, letting the little blue things tumble into his mouth like an avalanch. His eyes scan

the area, and he spots the smoke - a nice time to join up with the other Blades. He sprints over quickly to their position. "Harper, Gale.

What's the news about /that/?" He asks, pointing with a gloved hand towards the pillar of smoke.

Dradin looks at the column of smoke, chewing thoughtfully. "Tha' ain' good."

The smoke continues to rise. The location is clearly at some point further down the road.

"News?" Harper asks, glancing to Lucius blankly. "Looks like something's burning, is the news, right? We going over there? Where's the

Captain? Nikolaes, is it?"

Lucius Nepos levels a neutral, rather somber expressioned gaze at Paelnor, arching an eyebrow. "Captain resigned. I don't know what's going

on there, but we better go check it out." He glances towards Dradin. "Why aren't you armoured?"

Dradin stands up, spitting out chewed beetle shell and unsheathing a crystal-bladed dirk. "I imagine we should do summat about 'at." He dons

his helmet, which until recently had been laying in the grass by the rock. "I *am* armored," he pats his Pathfinder cuirass proudly. "Sorry

if'n it ain' fancy Blade trappin's."

"But you are a Blade," Harper responds, eyes widening, before he looks to Lucius in askance. "Isn't he? Forget it for now, huh? Let's go?" He

rises to his feet off the rock and takes a few steps down the road in the direction of the smoke, looking back to the two.

"You know what I meant, Dradin. The armour that you're wearing ain't Blades issue, and that's a problem when you're on patrol." Lucius nods

at Harper. "Yeah. We'll talk about that later." His armoured form begins to march down the road quickly, removing an iron throwing spear from

behind his shield in preparation. "C'mon."

As the road is travelled and the goal is reached, the source of the smoke is evident: a carriage, now overturned, has been set ablaze, with

tendrils of flame reaching out to the sky while searing and consuming the wood. The lifeless bodies of two horses can be seen nearby,

accompanied by the corpses of the human forms that were in presumable use of the transport. A little bit further down, a group of people --

their faces hidden by the shadows of the night -- huddle around the loot: various chests filled with food and clothing. A single voice is

discernible above the rest, that of a singing child:

"Oh, shining, shining star, Your light will guide us fast. Tomorrow we'll be home, The cold will soon be past."

Dradin's eyes go wide at the scene. "Damn," he whispers. "What th' shades is goin' on?"

"Uh..." Harper utters, his own eyes slightly wide under his helmet. "Ballsy, aren't they?" He slides one of his spears out from the loop at

his waist and glances to Lucius. "Who's that singing?"

As it becomes evident what is down the road from them, Lucius lifts his shield so that it is in a suitable position in front of his body,

and, wary of whatever bandits might be on the other side of the carriage. "Sounds young enough. Gale, stay behind us. Harper, line up with me

as we walk, but let's keep some space." That said, the Guardian Leader begins to approach the wreckage, wary of the people, and lifts his

spear into a striking position, so that it may be thrown at a moment's notice.

Grut has arrived. Grut rides in.

Since the Bladesmen make no effort to conceal their approach, they are heard and the group of bandits is startled. They turn and the light

finally washes over their faces as they stand. Numbers are usually hard to place under such darkened conditions, but they could easily be

estimated at around seven, most of them young men except for a single small child who clutches a ragged cloth to his chest, trembling with

fear. The apparent leader then steps forward, allowing his features to be completely visible: a man nearing his old age, with some grey on

his hair and wrinkles creasing his face. The smile he offers the soldiers is empty except for the single tooth in his mouth.

Dradin tightens the grip on his blade as he walks behind the other two soldiers. His mouth frowns as the bandits confront them. "Oy. Some

'lite unit we are. Can' even sneak up this bunch."

Harper glances behind him briefly with a frown, before the shield is unslung from his back and taken up into his other arm. "Not like rushing

a tower, at least, right?" he mutters under his breath, stepping up in line with Lucius and matching his step.

"Indeed." Is the only response that either of the two other Blades get from Lucius. His eyes narrow at the man, yet his stance keeps its

tenseness as his spear motions towards the corpses. "Did you do that?"

"Oi, there, fellows," the old man and apparent leader of the group greets, still smiling his almost-toothless smile. "That? Why, no, not in

the least'm. Som'else can we doos for yous? No'ing to see here, see, sos you can just move along." The cover of night still makes it

impossible to tell if the youthful bandits have any weapons, but the man who spoke certainly does: a makeshift club which is nothing but a

thick branch with bent nails protruding from the sides. "Me and mah sons here, we just getting some of the foods. You can have the resters if

you wants'm."

The youngest 'brigand' -- the trembling child -- begins to rock back and forth, tears now streaming from his eyes. "Who is they, papa?"

From Grut's saddle, Morgan move's slowly along the road and is walking beside the small, lightly colored donkey that pulls a wood wagon along

the rutted dirt road that leads east from the larger Imperial road behind her. The road in front and behind her is unlit from her lack of

torch or lantern but the young girl does her best to keep to the road's center. A couple of minutes more and the girl becomes aware of

something happening a short distance further along the road so she slows her pace even more and steps a bit closer to the donkey at her side

as she peers down the road, unable to really tell what is happening.

Dradin looks to Lucius as if waiting for an order.

"So what /did/ happen, huh?" Harper calls out, gesturing to the wagon with the point of his spear. "How about you drop that stick, too?"

"This isn't a question and answer period. As an instrument of Imperial law, I order you to comply with us. Drop what yer holding right now

and stay where you are." Deadpans Lucius, his weapon once more tilting back into a ready position. "What were you doing here?"

"Wot happens? Garland know not," the old man replies, looking down at his 'club'. "Not goods to drops'm the weapons. This 'ere woods, full of

dangerous animals. Mon needs to protect his family, see. Against the animals. Against the starvation and the colds." The other young men's

courage seems fed by the old man's and they are soon standing closer behind him. Their ages could range between thirteen and seventeen, and

their weapons are nothing more than mere sticks they might've picked up on the road and rocks. The only one who stays behind is the trembling


Dradin shifts his weight uneasily, eyes darting over the faces of Garland's brood.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan has moved a bit closer to whatever is happening in front of her on the road but she sees several people, some of

which can be seen to have shields or something from the way that they glint in the light. Still, she can't see much and so she moves forward

for several more steps before halting herself and her four-legged companion in the middle of the road, continuing to watch and keeping quiet.

Harper frowns slightly as he takes a quick look to the sides of the road, checking for any other less visible individuals. As well as he can,

at least, while keeping his attention on the main group. "They're desperate, huh?" he says quietly, just loud enough for Dradin and Lucius to


"Or confident. Or crazy." Lucius responds in kind. "Or all three." He adds. Now, his body shifts towards Garland. "I am being over generous,

in that any other Blade would have dispatched you two minutes ago. Drop the weapon, sir, or you'll have three well trained soldiers to

contend with."

Garland's eyes narrow, his smile fading and hiding the single tooth his mouth gives comfort to. "Ho, ho. Look here, now, the braves

soldier'ms wantings to kill the family. The fat man, he sit on the throne and feast everyday. Wes starve and we have none of the clothes'm.

What the fat man do? He sends his trained puppets to fights us, he do." He does not drop the weapon, instead tightening his grip. The boys

behind him seem fueled by their father's anger, also assuming a more ready position.

The trembling child continues to rock and now resumes the song he was previously singing. It starts out low but takes on strength as it goes.

"Yeh, wot he said," Dradin nods at Lucius's words, keeping the dirk at the ready. "We won' fight yer if y'come peacefully an all 'at."

From Grut's saddle, Morgan takes the rope lead in her hand and tucks it into the donkey's harness once she's stopped her forward progress.

Once that is done, she turns her attention back to the happenings ahead of her and watches with a lot of curiosity. The most that she can see

is that there are two definate groups of people and they don't appear overly friendly to each other even as broken bits of words reach to her

distance through the dark of the night.

"Didn't you hear him? Huh?" Harper calls, flipping the spear about in his hand to grip it properly for a throw. "No one wants to kill, right?

So drop the weapon." His voice lowers again. "If they rush, right, we're gonna back up. Give me a chance to throw these at 'em. Right?" He

waits for confirmation.

"Bandits, the noblepeoples say," Garland snarls. "They takes the coins and leave us to starve. Who the bandits'm? Who?"

In the background, the song is now louder:

"Shining star, shine so far..."

Lucius Nepos ignores the singing as best he can for now. "Nobles don't ambush carriages and kill everyone in them. I have no more sympathy

for you, leading your children astray." His green-blue eyes motion towards the corpses. To Paelnor, he says quietly enough for the three to

hear, "Yeah, something ain't right."

Dradin shifts again. "Fink this bloke is buyin' fer time or summat," he mutters to his comrades.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan turns and makes a comment to her traveling companion, the donkey, which has dropped it's head and searches for any

tufts of grass that might ne close by before looking back to the groups of people ahead. A few moments later she sighs and shakes her head a

bit before turning to glance at the animal and looking through one of the small pouches that hang from its harness. As she does this, she

absently brushes back several strands of her hair that have fallen forward beside her face and quits paying attention to what's happening.

"Shining star, shining star: guide me on my way, Bring me home, to eat and laugh, with family and friends..."

A single, enraged scream... and they rush. All of them. One old man with a single tooth and his four sons armed with sticks and stones. They

lack discipline, they lack power, they lack skill. Yet they rush, for spirit is not in absence.

"Shining star, shining star: show my father true, Let him see the way to live with the light that is shined by you."

"Idiots," Harper shouts, dismay obvious in his voice as he heaves forth his spear at the group, and begins to fall back.

Lucius Nepos follows suite, hefting his iron spear into the air to launch at the old man's chest; he's probably hoping that the blow of

recieving a spear will knock Garland over. He too turns to fall back a short distance, to a more advantageous position regarding terrain. His

steel shortsword, covered in painted runes which glimmer in the firelight, is withdrawn from its scabbard.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan drops the pouch back to where it hangs on the harness and looks up sharply at the scream that reaches her. The

girl's eyes widen quickly and her hands fly up to cover her own mouth as she stares in shock at the one group charging at the others. "Oh

Light..." she breaths to herself moments later.

Dradin steps back as well, easing into a fighting position. "Don' wanna hurt anyone," he grumbles to himself, sweat forming on his brow.

"Shining star, shining star..." A sob.

The first spear crosses the air between the rushing assailants and the Bladesmen, nailing Garland straight in the chest and impaling him to

the ground. His body remains slightly tilted but erect, his eyes wide and his mouth moving wordlessly. One of the rushing sons stops to check

on his father just as the second spear connects with his neck. Death is instantaneous. What is evil? Can it be defined? A man who fights to

keep the order or one who fights to break it so he can feed his family? The three remaining 'bandits' continue to run, their pitiful sticks

held high, their eyes thirsty for blood. No training whatsoever is visible in their actions.

Good and evil loses meaning in the face of chaos. At least for a young boy, just past being green. Harper pulls the nasty looking flanged

mace from the other loop at his hip, and turns himself to put the shield between him and the rushing trio. His own eyes widen slightly, and

he licks his lips in nervous anticipation.

Abruptly, Lucius spins about face and lowers his body down, shield held about his body and sword point raised outwardly. He gets back into

that familiar battle stance, something which gives him at least a bit of comfort in such a situation. But before they reach him, he yells one

last time, "Stop and there doesn't need to be more bloodshed!"

"Stop!" echoes Dradin, looking nervous but keeping his weapon at the ready nontheless. "C'mon, don' do anything stupid..."

From Grut's saddle, Morgan almost screams at seeing the first person struck by a cast spear. The second spear cast that hits the second

person shakes her even more, causing her to collapse onto the ground even though her eyes remain fixed on the scene ahead of her. She stares

at the two men lying on the ground, no movement from either of them as she begins to cry, still unable to make any noise from her place on

the ground.

Chaos. The anarchy of the senses. Ethics lose their value and transform, taking new shapes in the minds of men. There is no good and no evil

in the face of such disorder; there is no love or hate; there is no peace of the mind, nor is there war. No. In the battlefield, there is

only the weapon, the skill, and the hand that wields them both.

They do not stop. They rush, unvoiced cries of justice in their throats, their futile weapons held high above their heads and ready to

strike. It is that very formation that finds them as they leap into the lion's mouth.

The first boy, clearly not over thirteen, keeps his eyes closed as he puts his life in the hands of destiny, thus presenting no effort to

Nepos as he throws himself at the sword. The point pierces right through the weak flesh, protruding out the assailant's back. His eyes open

in horror and pain and the crimson liquid of life begins to seep out of the wound and flow down Lucius' steel.

The other two attackers are not as foolish once they witness this. They halt. They come to a terrible realization. It dawns on them like the

meaning of life to a dying man. The sticks fall from their hands and they both drop to their knees in front of Dradind and Paelnor, crying.

Harper blinks in surprise as the boy impales himself, jaw almost going slack at the sight, before he remembers himself. With a shout, he

jumps forward at one of the surviors on their knees, working to get them on their stomach and subdue them. Though it doesn't look like they

need any subduing.

Certain things are given in war, such as death. Other things, such as a young boy jumping onto one's sword with a scream of defiance, are

not. Lucius doesn't know what to do or say for a moment ; he stands there, slack jawed, sword covered in the boy's crimson lifefluid.

"Light." He removes his sword, quickly. "Why did you do that, boy?" He asks lamentingly, not really expecting much of an answer.

Dradin gapes at the figure on Lucius's sword, dumbstruck. "What in..." he can't take his eyes off of the scene, the bandit son's grovelling

at his feet is noise in the distance.

From Grut's saddle, Morgan finally manages to loose a broken sob from her shocked self. From that point on the girl's tears flow freely as

she continues to stare at the dead men not far away from her. "Oh Light..." she manages to say again, although this time it comes after a

weak breath between her cries.

Nor is there an answer. By the time Lucius removes his sword, the boy is dead. The other two allow themselves to be subdued or simply remain

there, still crying. "They were... dead... when we got... here..." one assures, his face red and covered with tears. "We only wanted the food

they left. You are the bandits." The other would-be attacker echoes his brother: "You are the bandits." No resistance. No more strength. No

more spirit.

A bird flies out of the trees in the distance and lands on the impaled Garland's face. 'CRAW!' it vows, then pecks at the one tooth in the

fallen man's mouth. Soon enough, it manages to rip it out and fly off. Watching this is the child who at one point was trembling. The ragged

cloth is no longer held to his chest, but dropped and forgotten on the ground. Unfocused eyes stare ahead as he continues to rock back and

forth. "Shining star..." he says, the song death on his lips.

The battlefield, if it can be called that, is tainted scarlet. Corpses everywhere. Corpses of victims, corpses of children, corpses of a

man... and the figure of his one living son, whose star will never shine again.

"Why didn't you talk?" Harper grumbles, his own eyes misting slightly as he rises to his feet, lifting his prisoner with him. He looks over

to Garland and stares for a moment, before shaking his head sadly.

Flies already begin to buzz around the older corpses, like uncaring herald of death here to collect their due. The two boys will offer no

resistance any longer and the one child standing by his dead father will not either, if he is remembered. Imperial Justice has been served.

Return to Season 3 (2005)

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